As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to sweep throughout the UK, scammers around the country are starting to exploit rising feelings of anxiety and fear amongst the general public. Older and vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to coronavirus scams, and it is important that everyone remains vigilant and looks after each other during these trying times.
To help you identify criminals with nefarious intentions, we’ve put together a list of coronavirus scams to avoid:
1. Online scams
Online email scams have been in existence for a long time and usually succeed by encouraging victims to hand over pieces of sensitive personal information, bank details, passwords, and details of their contacts through malicious attachments. Often these emails claim to be from banks. Nowadays, however, many scammers are playing on fears surrounding COVID-19 by encouraging people to open attachments supposedly offering information about local cases of the viruses. Other online tricks include fake resources (such as coronavirus maps) that feature malicious links containing data-stealing malware.
2. Doorstep crimes
Criminals have started to target vulnerable older people at home by posing as good-willed neighbours. With older people strongly advised to stay indoors, thieves have started to offer to do their shopping, taking their money and failing to return. Whilst this is not always easy to avoid, vulnerable people should try to reach out to mutual aid groups and neighbours who they trust in order to avoid such scams.
3. The sale of counterfeit goods
Criminals have started to sell counterfeit goods such as fake swabbing kits, sanitisers, and face masks, both online and on the doorstep. These goods are often useless and can even be unsafe. Remember to purchase goods only through trusted retailers.
4. Refund scams
Refund scams involve criminals offering bogus holiday refunds for people who have been forced to cancel upcoming trips. If you’re looking for your money back, be wary of websites dedicated to claiming holiday refunds. Head straight to the company you used to book your holiday.
5. Donation scams
Some scammers have been exploiting the goodwill of the public by encouraging them to donate to supposed coronavirus-related causes and pocketing the money themselves. Only donate to trusted organisations.
6. Illegal money lending
Loan sharks are targeting people who face financial hardship due to the current economic downturn. They operate by lending money and proceeding to charge huge interest rates, using threats and violence to extract money from their victims.
Ultimately, whilst it is vital that everyone comes together during the current global pandemic, it is also important that you remain vigilant and aware of the ways in which certain people may wish to exploit the situation.